On June 29, Cornell was one of three law schools nationwide to receive a $150,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide legal services for veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
The grant has enabled the Law School’s Public Interest Department to hire James Hardwick as the first full-time veterans law staff attorney. This position will create pro bono opportunities to law students seeking to fulfill their fifty-hour requirement for New York State Bar Admission and give back to the local community. Hardwick joins Danielle Bernard, an Air Force veteran of twenty-one years, as adjunct faculty directing the new Veterans Law Practicum, which is funded for one year under this VA grant.
“We are honored the VA has awarded this impactful grant to our practicum, which will allow us to serve veterans across central and western New York who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness,” says Hardwick. “We are gratefulfor the opportunity for our students to work with clients experiencing poverty and housing insecurity. They will witness first-hand our obligationm as lawyers to leverage our legal training in the service of others, especially for those who served our country.”
There are more than 4,100 veterans in Tompkins County, according to Michaela K. Rossettie Azemi, director of public interest and community engagement, and one of the most frequent issues they face is housing instability.
“[Our students} will witness first-hand our obligation as lawyers to leverage our legal training in the service of others, especially for those who served our country.”
— James Hardwick
The grant will allow Cornell Law students to provide free legal assistance to approximately sixty veterans over the course of this year. The legal support will primarily focus on eviction and homelessness prevention and will take place through coursework in the Veterans Law Practicum and in pro bono volunteer hours dedicated to working under Hardwick’s supervision.
“This project is especially poignant given the focus on helping veterans who are unhoused, or at risk of home- lessness, right here in our hometown,” says Rossettie Azemi. “Being one of only three law schools across the country awarded this grant, and the fact that Cornell University was recently awarded a number one ranking for veteran students, solidifies our commitment to educating ‘lawyers in the best sense’ and fosters a sense of pride in our community.” “I’m delighted to see this recognition for Michaela’s and our veteran students’ dedicated work, and it’s a pleasure to welcome Danielle and James to the faculty to found our newest practicum,” added Jens David Ohlin, Allan R. Tessler Dean and Professor of Law.